[Wikipedia-l] Helga Jonat on [[Berlin]]

Michael R. Irwin mri_icboise at surfbest.net
Mon Aug 26 13:02:24 UTC 2002

Jimmy Wales wrote:
> Jens Frank wrote:
> > Oh, I didn't want to suggest to denounce her, I just don't want
> > Jimbo to be arrested when occasionally entering Germany ...
> *grin* That's a very very good thing.

Is it possible for the German government to arrest a U.S.
citizen for supporting free speech on a server located 
in the USA?  It would seem out of their jurisdiction.

> I'm talking via email with Helga.  It is not going very well.  I feel
> that I will not be able to change her mind directly.  I have told her
> not to post anything further about WWII, Poland, Germany, Judaism, or
> related topics until we get this straightened out.
> I am not inclined, as everyone knows, towards bans.  But if someone has
> an agenda and is completely uncooperative, well, I'm just not sure how
> much we can stand.

Clearly there are limits.  The following essay is intended to
be a general discussion of a pattern of problems.  If things
with Helga are beyond repair, or become so, then I feel that
is unfortunate.   The following is not intended as a statement
regarding any specific action(s) taken in the past or to be
taken in the future but rather as a discussion of the ramifications,
consequences, and potential benefits of reducing future problems via
pattern or process modification by the "community" if possible 
and desirable.

It seems we have a recurring pattern of minorities (actually
individuals, they typically seem to get run off before additional 
"party" members show up and become factions) with agendas 
and/or material that we are not integrating well into our 
"neutral" culture and resulting NPOV Wikipedia presentation.

I wonder if we are failing to branch the draft material effectively
such that minority views can be developed effectively and fairly and 
then linked to appropriately from more mainstream overview articles.

Granted that if individuals/factions with an agenda, poor evidence, 
low credibility, etc. want/insist on mainstream billing as fact or 
"the truth" then this not easily reconcilable.  Is it possible that
we are not branching quickly enough to represent minority views
or weaker cases in arguments that are inherently fuzzy?

For example:  There is, in my perception, currently an undercurrent 
circulating in the U.S. that U.S. oil related policies are in 
large part responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade
Center.  Add to this the fact that Israeli airlines have had locks
on the cockpit doors for decades to help prevent highjacking.
The rush to obliterate the Taliban and Al Queda starts to look
suspiciously like a diversion of public attention from domestic
culpability, negligence, and stupidity.

I think a substantial minority view could be written up that the
U.S. would be better off fixing stupid U.S. policies leading to this
type of attack rather than invading and attempting to control portions
of the Middle East via puppet or "friendly" governments after the
inevitable (policies have consequences or else they are ineffectual
and insignificant to real world events) attacks occur.

No doubt if I firmly believed this and insisted on front page
billing it as "the truth", right thinking "patriotic" Americans
would quickly get irritated.  Clearly this could escalate to 
the point I was no longer welcome at Wikipedia, at least for
the duration of the war efforts, or I got grumpy and disappeared.

Good riddance!  Less wasted time all around among the mainstream
adherents.  Who then is going to write the minority position?
A paragraph sop to the minority position written by a majority
view adherent which includes a couple of links to incoherent or 
poor material available elsewhere on the web hardly seems like a 
rigorous NPOV approach to summarizing the available knowledge 
deeply, broadly, and reliably for future reader's use. 

Obviously this case could be put in its own article appropriately
NPOV'd at the top with some context.  In my view, the case could
then be made from its own viewpoint.  Preferably by someone 
sympathetic, enthusiastic, or attached to this viewpoint and 
critiqued appropriately by others.  External links could also
provide some context prior to linking to the minority view or
"propaganda" or revisionism.  Would this be more acceptable to
radical or angry minorities than an enforced brief paragraph 
"weighted" according to its perception of importance by the 

Could controversy be diluted and managed more effectively by
branching multiple views early in a maze of interconnected
articles reached primarily from an NPOV summary?

IOW would we, the Wikipedia community, tend to lose less angry,
grumpy, rude individuals perceiving their views as arbitrarily 
discounted without full presentation?  Censored by a tyrannical 
majority view.  Very unpalatable.  Is an opportunity to develop
a complete view by adherents of that view contextualized to NPOV 
via a paragraph at the top including back links to the prevailing 
majority views more palatable to at least some of the minority 
factions or radicals that we are currently running off?

The current prevailing majority view in the U.S. is clearly that we 
were justified in attacking the de facto government of Afghanistan.  
In my opinion, other views should be articulated and preserved as well.  
Notice how the justification for citizens of Japanese descent 
internment in World War II is now viewed at the same time we are 
imprisoning hundreds of Arabs without releasing their names and 
providing no recourse to courts.  

The public's views of Vietnam has also shifted treacherously
from the mandated or publicised views of the involved U.S.
to the point that MacNamara now claims he knew his Vietnam policies
were ineffectual and idiotic.  Why then has he not been prosecuted
for treason or dereliction of duty?  The fifth? Statute of limitations?
There was a lot of rude discussion on both sides of this issue during
the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  It did not invalidate their data or opinions
but it did make it difficult to reach an agreement regarding reality.

Another more local example:

"Art" has not returned to "Infanticide" since Ed and I invited
him to collaborate with us in finding more evidence and improving
the article.  He seemed to be relying exclusively on one "scholar"
who skirted with making some very strong claims and stated strong 
opinions without providing sufficient evidence or analysis to
back them up conclusively.

Clearly the main article has to be clear that insufficient evidence
exists to make strong claims that infanticide was a widespread
and frequent practice.  The evidence supports that it occurred
widely in all ancient civilizations but provides no real proof
of quantitative frequency.  That it occurred at least occasionally 
in most/all ancient civilizations is clear and acknowledged by the 
mainstream view.

Would "Art" have stuck around (remained calmer and integrated into the 
contributing "community" better) if encouraged to help write up a
draft article making the best case possible for his clear, firm belief 
(that infanticide was very common in the past) which could be linked to
the main article with the context that insufficient evidence existed to
state this conclusively as fact; in the view of most scholars?  Art,
I (and possibly Ed) could make the best case possible for Art's beliefs
or views citing and quoting DeMause and other supporting sources, while
the current talk page analysis of DeMause could be refactored as
of why the evidence is too weak to support the strong view.  All of this
would be off the mainstream summary page of infanticide which seems
to have stablized for the moment, primarily because Art is apparently
gone, not because of any acknowledged consensus that all the material 
and pertinent views had been presented fairly for future readers

I understand that Helga's views are considered incorrect,
offensive, and even worse, revisionist propaganda, by some 
or many of us.

It seems to me that if they are common to a substantial number
of former Soviet citizens, or German Nazis, that they belong 
somewhere in an NPOV Wikipedia.  Likewise Nazi views of what
they thought they were doing with the death camps.  Was the
genocide truly viewed as beneficial to the anticipated German
empire?  Was this an opportunistic ploy by cynical politicians,
or merely a personal crusade by Hitler sanctioned by his underlings
despite the large impact on the war effort.   Similar genocides
are documented in the Bible and in accounts of the American West.  
Accounts and justifications vary widely between the involved factions.

The tribes obliterated by Jewish refugees from Egypt are not well
documented in history other than by biblical reference.  Did
they really exist?   Did they agree that they were evil and 
that the tribes of Israel could make more appropriate use of
their land because Jewish prophets were in contact with the
almighty?  Should their misery be ignored in the English Wikipedia 
because much of the English speaking world is dominated by Christians
and it is politically incorrect this decade to dislike Jews or large 
U.S. subsidies for Israel's defense courtesy of the lobbying of the
Defense League?  Should their fate be ignored for lack of evidence
while the bible is cited as a reputable source elsewhere?

How many views of the Crusades will crop up?  Were they justified?
Is there any disagreement about which factions were slaughtering
or converting Arabs, Jews, natives, natural resources, land, etc.
Is there any agreement regarding beliefs, motives, methods, routes,
numbers, etc.  How should the conflicting evidence be developed
and presented.

Did Drake beat the Spanish Armada through sheer genius or did 
their deficiencies in logistics doom a very large rag tag fleet
from the start?  I have seen it presented both ways in documentaries.

McCarthy was firmly discredited for his methods in his communist
hunt but decades later Soviet records claim some of his victims
were truly agents.   KGB propaganda?  Coincidence that of thousands
of victims persectuted some of the famous ones were actually guilty?
How should future Americans understand the paranoid cold war era 
without exposure to his faction's views that there were communists 
under every rock in Hollywood?  Some of the opposing factions seemed
to view McCarthy merely as a self serving politician, not a patriot.
Would not multiple views and presentation of the evidence for and
against belong in a deep, broad, reliable resource discussing the
Cold War?  Anything less is merely presenting the writer's opinion
instead of providing material for the reader to form their own
assessment and conclusions.

Perhaps our methodology can be improved by branching the draft
material early and often.   Controversial material can thus
be relegated away from the "mainstream" or core articles and
linked to with proper caveats.  Caucuses of ideologues could
focus on developing their various views while the calmest and 
politest members negotiate the wording of the context for the 
mainstream summaries that point to the minority views.  People
willing to discuss controversial issues at length and detail
could assist with augmenting and improving the controversial
view sub articles while others with less patience, time,
or interest could watch the NPOV top level summaries.

If this occurred before heated edit wars got started, or shortly
thereafter as routine development of various views, it might
be beneficial in expanding our diversity by retaining some
of our grumpier, ruder, radicals.  Perhaps they might even
calm down and get a little more polite or effective in presenting
their evidence instead of their opinions.

I take strong exception to the seemingly prevailing
view that "Wikipedia is not a discussion forum."  I do not
believe it is possible to achieve a deep, broad, reliable
Wikipedia presentation of available human knowledge without
extensive (hopefully polite) discussion regarding the source 
material and how to best present it.  Controversy is inevitable
and we need to learn how to better deal with it to preserve
our diversity.  Certainly people who wish to stick to known
"provable" facts, cite the source of evidence and move on should
be able to.  People who wish to present, critique, discuss
in more detail at length should also be empowered.

I agree that it is not a forum for attempting to convert others
to a particular view.   I think it should also not be a forum to
censor or run off other views.  If this is agreed in principle
then some effort is appropriate for the community to learn how
to communicate effectively with angry minorities that polite
interaction is appropriate.  Assurance that their views will not 
be arbitrarily dismissed (or worse, distorted and unsubstantiated
in a small paragraph) without due process would be a good start.  

Many have taken the implicit stance that it is each 
individual's responsibility to be polite and civil and learn how 
to get along with the "community".  We, the existing "community", 
do not need people who cannot learn quickly how to get along with 
us.  I think this ignores the diverse background and previous 
internet environments that new contributors bring with them.  
Concluding that newcomer's who disagree with a regular and then 
get defensive, impolite, and rhetorically ineffective when 
reinforcements show up (after threats and warnings) to help delete 
or edit "inappropriate" content are better rejected
(or ultimately banned) rather than shown effectively how the local
processes can work well begs several questions:

1.  How are we going to get their unpopular views and alleged
information contributed if they do not provide it?

2.  Who is going to do all this remaining work?  It is not
a small undertaking to write a deep, broad, reliable summary
of human knowledge.  37 sys ops, 200 regular contributors,
1000 repeat contributors, and 4,000 registered accounts
is an excellent start but there is a long ways to go.  The
more complete it gets and the more used, the more maintenance
effort it will require.

3.  When regulars disagree and fail to agree to disagree
politely, how shall we decide which faction to run off?

4.  When factions run off or fork why are we interested
in inviting them to return to the main project?

Learning how to better orientate and accustom newcomers
to our "culture"  may take a substantial investment of time. 
It could have a large payoff from improved diversity in interests,
viewpoints, sources of draft content; reduced maintenance effort;
and increased available volunteer effort.  The trick, in my view, 
is in getting processes set up such that the investment in time 
can be made by appropriately interested people rather than on a 
crisis demand basis by exasperated adversaries as each new radical
is discovered or made angry in the stacks.

Mike Irwin

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